Friday, 24 May 2024

When Can You Employ Children?

It is a common ‘myth’ that children can be employed from the age of 14 and 9 months. To minimise child exploitation and safeguard children’s welfare, businesses who employ children must comply with state-specific child employment laws, including minimum age of employment requirements. The definition of a ‘child’ and what work they are legally allowed to perform, varies from state to state.

The various state and territory laws are summarised below.

When Can You Employ Children?

Penalties for breaches

Breaching state child employment laws can lead to warnings, notices to comply and significant financial penalties.

As well as legal consequences, given the given the sensitivity around employing minors, businesses are also likely to suffer reputational damage for any breach of child employment laws.

A Case on Child Employment

A recent Victorian case has highlighted the need for businesses engaging child employees to comply with their legal obligations.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria commenced proceedings against fashion retailer TK Maxx after discovering their Werribee store was employing a child without a permit. It warned TK Maxx Werribee that the child must cease work immediately, however TK Maxx employed another child without a permit the following week.

TK Maxx Werribee pleaded guilty to:

  • Employing 2 children under 15 years of age without a permit
  • Failing to ensure a child was supervised by someone with a Working with Children Check
  • Employing a child for more hours than they were permitted to work
  • Employing a child later than 9 pm
  • Failing to provide children with a 30-minute rest break for every 3 hours worked

When considering penalties, the Court held that the offending was inadvertent and considered that TK Maxx had no prior offences, and had entered an early guilty plea.

This resulted in TK Maxx being placed on an adjourned undertaking for 12 months with a $5,000 penalty.

Lesson for Employers

The TK Maxx case is a timely reminder of the importance of complying with child employment laws, and ensuring managers and other staff that may be working with children are aware of their obligations to maintain children’s safety and wellbeing, including their requirements to comply with correct rostering and break provisions.   All employers that employ or consider employing children should familiarise themselves with the state-specific child employment law, as they vary across Australia.

If you have further questions about your company’s child employment obligations, please contact HR Legal.


This article was produced by HR Legal. It is intended to provide general information only in summary format on legal issues. It does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on as such.

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